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A national debate is required to battle racial and cultural tensions, but councils must forge that cohesion on the ...
A national debate is required to battle racial and cultural tensions, but councils must forge that cohesion on the ground, Home Office minister John Denham has said.

Mr Denham told an audience at the Local Government Association: 'Not talking about difficult issues is far more likely to allow the malign and the vicious to exploit [them] on a spurious claim of speaking up for ordinary people.'

He said: 'Your role as council leaders taking that debate forward will be crucial.'

Central government is setting up a community cohesion panel to advise ministers, and a community cohesion unit to work across Whitehall.

He added: 'In practical terms, the government believes all councils need to address the issue of community cohesion. An essential step will be for you to conduct an assessment of where your areas are.

'Some of you will conclude that your existing policies and programmes are satisfactory but I suspect many will not,'

he said.


Draft guidance on community cohesion was published this week by the LGA, DTLR, the Home Office and the Commission for Racial Equality.

Recommendations include

-- Clear leadership around zero tolerance of racism

--Appoint a member champion and senior officer to work on community cohesion

--Public statements of commitment to community relations

--Invite leaders of all communities and faiths, including white, to launch new projects

--Use school twinning, pre-school clubs and education exchanges to promote cross-cultural contact

--Develop quantitative and qualitative measures of cohesion.

The deadline for comments on the draft is 14 August. The guidance is available from the LGA on 0207 664 3000.

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